Category Archives: Opinion

8 Pieces of Advice for Every Study Abroad Student


  1. Take classes that actually interest you.– Believe it or not, study abroad does involve studying. The classes you take have an amazing way of rounding out your cultural experience. Don’t choose classes that simply seem the easiest, but choose the classes that seem most interesting to you.3765c625
  2. Travel. Travel. Travel.—Your professors aren’t naïve; they know the real reason you came abroad was to see the world! Your best experiences, most Instagram-worthy pics, and favorite memories will all come from traveling, so do it as often as you can!photo-1422004694183-cd2f8c55d4d9
  3. Don’t get stuck in a routine.—After a while, it becomes easy to go to class and come home, and naps become more and more tempting. However, make an effort each day to see your host city. Try a new restaurant, explore a new piazza, or find yourself in a new shopping district.
  4. Record your memories.—Whether it’s through taking pictures or writing down your thoughts in a blog or journal, recording your memories is so important. Your semester abroad will span some of the best months of your life, and I promise, it’s something you’ll want to cherish
  5. Try weird foods.—While you’re in Europe, I can guarantee you’re around foods very different than the ones you might be used to in the States. This gives you the perfect opportunity to find your new favorite dishes and rule out the ones you never want to set your taste buds on again.   photo-1424847651672-bf20a4b0982b
  6. Do something that terrifies you.—Go skydiving, climb through a canyon, or jump off a cliff. These things and many more will push you out of your comfort zone, make you face your fears, and help you realize that you’re capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for.
  7. Become friends with the locals.—Finding local friends will help you master the language and give you a unique look into the real life of the local culture. Plus, I can bet they are great cooks!f84a3a01
  8. Get lost.—The best advice I received from my program director was, “Don’t be afraid to get lost once in awhile.” The best way to discover your study abroad city is to wander. Find time each week to wander around. From this you’ll quickly learn the city, as well as really proving yourself a true

The Definitive Ranking of the Best Panini Shops in Florence

If there’s anyone who knows a thing or two about a good sandwich, it’s this girl right here. I firmly believe that the best meal of the day is a good lunch with friends and so having lived in Florence for quite some time now, I took it upon myself to investigate and then share my findings regarding the definitive ranking of the best panini shops in Florence. It wasn’t an easy task, but someone had to do it and I really do love a challenge. So sit back, relax, and read on about the culinary genius behind the panino makers of Firenze.

5. Antico Noe

Antico Noe is unique in that it’s paninos are made on baguettes – a refreshing change of pace in the land of focaccia. Priced from around 4-5 euros, their menu offers a wide range of different sandwiches to choose from. You also cannot visit Noe without adding their Rose sauce to your sandwich – a slightly spicy red sauce that gives just the right amount of kick.


Reccommended: # 9 Turkey, Brie (if you’re not a brie fan, sub for pecorino), Grilled Onions & Rose

4. The Oil Shoppe

A lunch spot which is super popular among students, the Oil Shoppe offers up a long list of sandwiches for under five euros each. These sandwiches are huge and are sure to keep you satisfied for your afternoon classes. My reccommendation below isn’t exactly a typical italian panino, so if you want something a bit more traditional there’s plenty to choose from, just make sure you try their walnut sauce – it’s amazing. For just a euro fifty more, you can add a water and french fries to your order. The place isn’t huge, so grab your panino and head somewhere outside to sit, but don’t forget to sign the guest book before you leave. BONUS: They have iced coffee 🙂


Recommended: #25: Meatballs in tomato sauce, grilled peppers & onions, parmesan cheese


  1. Gusta Panino

Just down the street from it’s pizza counterpart (a whole different blog post entirely, to which my mouth is already watering) and situated right in Piazza Santo Spirito is the quaint little shop, Gusta Panino. With several different bread options and the freshest ingredients, it’s a lesser known panino shop that’s definitely worth the visit.


Reccommended: Wholemeal bread, turkey, mozzarella, pesto & artichoke spread

2. All’Antico Vinaio

Another “hole in the wall” shop located on Via Dei Neri, just by the beautiful Piazza Signoria is the legendary All’Antico Vinaio. This place is talked up in tour books, and many travel to Florence already having knowledge of it’s greatness. You will most definitely wait in a line curving out the door and down the street if you wait until noon to pay a visit. Your wait will be rewarded though, with a sandwich the size of your face and a glass of self service chianti classico all for 7 euros. A unique quirk of Vinaio is that they “DO NOT HAVE PESTO” as a slightly aggravated hand written sign informs customers. Not to worry, though – try their tartufo (truffle) spread on your sandwich and you will forget that you ever even liked pesto. Once you’ve paid, you can sit on one of the little stools outside or across the street from the infamous panino shop.


Recommended: Porchetta, tomatoes, artichoke spread, zucchini, eggplant rucola & oil

1. Pino’s Sandwiches (Salumeria Verdi)

My first week that I studied abroad, I was truly #blessed to literally stumble off of the street and into Pino’s shop. I cannot believe no one told me about this place prior to coming abroad, but maybe finding it on my own was simply fate. Not only is it truly the best sandwich I have ever eaten in my life, but the staff alone would keep you coming back day after day. The owner, Pino is there every day that the shop is open and it’s rare that he is the one not making your sandwich – and doing it with a smile. You can essentially purchase a piece of heaven for just 3.50 euros – run, don’t walk.


Recommended: Spicy salami, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, smoked mozzarella, mushroom and truffle sauce

Why You Should Leave Space In Your Suitcase

The idea of packing the right amount and right type of belongings can be very daunting when you prepare to venture to another country for several months. If you’re anything like me, you are somewhat convinced that each article of clothing you own will experience major FOMO if it doesn’t take the trip across the pond with you, so you find some way to rationalize why you will pack said item. Your packing experience then turns into game of Tetris to see how much you can fit into a suitcase so it will not only close, but still not go over that dreaded weight limit the airlines have. Many of my friends who had studied abroad in the past urged me to save some room in my suitcase once I began to pack, as I would prepare to head home with tons of souvenirs.


I really struggled with this as I knew how many different countries (with very different climates) I would be visiting and wanted to prepare for everything. The key is to understand the essentials you will need, based on the overall weather conditions you see for different countries. Generally, you can get away with the same types of clothing if you plan on traveling to Greece, Spain, Italy, Morocco, etc. Although January and February might be a bit cooler, you still have those items for once it does warm up a bit. As for packing for countries when it might be a bit chillier at first, you can bring your warmer clothes for countries like France, England, Ireland, Germany, Austria, etc. Overall, plan on bringing the essentials for those countries you plan on visiting, and worst case scenario, if there is something (or several things) you desperately need it gives you a great opportunity to get a shopping trip in.


One of my favorite parts about studying abroad was seeing all of the different shopping areas in each city. Especially to those of you planning on visiting Milan, Paris or London, you are hitting some of the fashion capitals of the world. One minute you are wandering down the sidewalk with friends, the next you are inside a store with a handful of amazing Euro-chic outfits that you cannot leave the city without buying. This is where you start to be grateful you did leave room in your suitcase for even this one shopping trip…..and there will be without a doubt be more in the next city. When I studied abroad in Rome, I made a point of heading to Via del Corso at least once a week to get some shopping in. This is one of, if not THE best shopping areas in Rome. When you spot a Brandy Melville or Zara, it’s hard to keep walking by without “just looking at that cool jacket in the window that most likely nobody from back home will have”. By the end of the semester, it seems like half of my wardrobe changed as I found really great stores in every city I visited with even better clothing!


Another great part of studying abroad is the amount of gifts you can return home with that make you feel like Santa himself as you distribute cool things to the masses. After a spring semester abroad, you come home and both Mother’s and Father’s Day quickly approach. You will definitely want to make sure you left room in your suitcase for that bottle of wine (or five) if your parents are wine connoisseurs. Or if a sibling or friend’s birthday happens to arrive right as your return home, you will want to make sure you picked up that amazing purse you saw at the leather markets in Florence, or got your brother that t-shirt from the Guinness Factory in Dublin. I loved coming home with a suitcase half-full of Christmas gifts for my family and friends, especially as they represented an amazing four months abroad that I was able to share with them through a unique gift from a different country.



By the end of the semester you may become so cultured and Euro-chic, you might forget all about those shoes or jeans you once thought were cool back home. You will definitely want to come home with at least one special thing from each place you visited, as those are things you can take with you and share with others for a very long time. After replacing nearly half of my wardrobe abroad, I worried about how I would fit everything into my suitcase AND not go over the luggage weight limit. Because I was able to get rid of the things I didn’t necessarily need, I had plenty of room to come home with gifts for my family and friends….and myself. These next few months will be filled with great adventures to be had, memories to make and souvenirs to buy—so get packing now and prepare for one of the most exciting experiences to be had!


How To Document Your Time Abroad

Written by Endsley Eggert

Your study abroad semester will be, hands down, the best semester of your life. While you’re out exploring the world, you’ll want to document your adventures so your friends and family at home can be included and updated, and also to have something to look back on when you return home. Here are some fun ways you can document your time abroad.


Before I get into the fun stuff, I need to emphasize the importance of backing up your pictures and documents. Whether it be on a hard drive, USB stick, Dropbox, Google Drive, or The Cloud… make sure to backup anything important you want to keep. When I studied abroad (Florence Fall 2012) my computer crashed and I lost every single picture from September and October and there was no way to recover them. I was and still am devastated. Don’t let it happen to you.


Now that my cautionary tale is complete, let’s get creative.



Pictures are the easiest and most obvious way to capture your time abroad. Encompass the scenery, foods, culture, people and more with just a click of a button. There are several cameras out there that you can use. The good old iPhone, DSLR’s, point-and-shoots, GoPros, Selfie Sticks, Polaroids and more.



Polaroid cameras are making a comeback and Fujifilm is producing new cameras, film, and printers. Polaroid pictures are an unique way to document your time abroad and print the photo right away so you have a photo album in the works.polaroid


Facebook Albums

Uploading your photos to Facebook is a surefire way to make your friends at home jealous. It is also a good way to make sure your pictures are backed up. Your Facebook albums have a “download entire album” function so you can re-download them to your computer should anything happen.Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 13.12.58



Instagram is another great social media site to upload pictures. You can also create a customized hashtag to tag all your pictures from abroad and link them together. Then you can just click on the hashtag and see all your travel pictures in one place.IMG_9048



Postagram is a cool smartphone app where you can send postcards home using pictures you’ve taken. It gives a personal touch to your postcards that your loved ones will enjoy!postagram



Short snippets, full stories, and pictures; a blog is another great way to keep family and friends up-to-date on your abroad adventures. Blogging takes time and patience. I always set out with the intention to blog my newest adventure but never end up taking the time to do so. It is on my to-do list to revamp my old one and use for all my upcoming adventures. Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 11.36.40


Thank You Mom and Dad

A cool way to thank your parents is to take a picture in each place you visit holding signs that spell out “Thank You Mom and Dad For Giving Me The World”. I’ve seen many students do it, including myself, and it’s a fantastic gift that guarantees a few water works.thankyou



Upon your return, you can create photo albums of all your favorite memories. Print the pictures and insert them in the plastic sleeves of a traditional album, import your pictures to iPhoto and create a hard copy book, or create photo albums online that can be published into a book on websites such as Flickr, Shutterfly, or Artifact Uprising



One thing that I wish I did more of when I was abroad was take videos. Videos can capture things that pictures cannot; action, sounds, personalities and more. When I returned from abroad, my friends and I complied the little videos we had taken and I edited them into two, 8ish minute videos that are little snapshots of our semester. It is so fun to look back and re-watch the videos over and over again.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 10.57.03Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 10.58.42


Travel Journal

A travel journal is something that I keep up with religiously, even if it takes me a couple months after the trip to complete. I keep notes of each day’s happenings on my iPhone and go in later to fill in the details in my journal. Keeping a travel journal allows you to write down things that photos and videos don’t capture. I write down thoughts, feelings, inside jokes, details of activities and anything else that happens. Details become fuzzy as time goes on but travel journals ensure that the memories stay intact. Whenever I re-read mine I find myself constantly thinking, “oh yeah, I completely forgot that happened”. You can also get as creative as you want with your travel journal by adding items such as postcards, pictures, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs and more.



Save everything

I become a hoarder when I’m abroad and save everything that I get. Ticket stubs, transportation tickets, maps, travel guides, hostel key cards, brochures, museum entrances…you name it! It’s another way to keep track of all the details of your semester. Currently, all the things I’ve collected are sitting in folders in my room but I’ve been working on creating these cool crates to keep them in


You can also create shadow boxes to show off all your stuffshadowbox


Similar Souvenirs

One thing that I like to do is collect the same souvenir from every place that I go. I know a ton of people that collect shot glasses or christmas ornaments from each place they travel to. Personally, I collect country flags which I have strewn across my room and postcards. My most recent venture as a Bus2alps guide is collecting patches from every place that I guide and sewing them on to my guide backpack!IMG_9050

Last but not least, Maps, Maps, Maps!!

It’s crazy and so much fun to see everywhere you’ve been laid out on the map. You can buy a map and push pin all the places you’ve been, scratch maps where you scratch off your destinations, or build them online on websites such as the Matador Network. Shot 2014-12-28 at 9.59.43


All these ways to preserve your memories can absolutely be applied to any trip you go on in the future. So keep exploring and keep documenting!


Surviving as a Gluten Free Eater in Italy

Written by Endsley Eggert

Maintaining a gluten free diet is not an easy lifestyle. But keeping up with it while living in Italy? Not as impossible as it might sound.

I started my gluten free lifestyle about 4 years ago after finding out I had an intolerance. While I am not Celiac, I get extremely nauseous if I consume gluten so it’s easier just to avoid it. When I studied abroad in Florence Fall 2012, I decided not to deprive myself of all the pizza and pasta that Italy has to offer. It was delicious while it lasted but resulted in a year and a half of horrible repercussions and sickness. Not worth it. So this time around, I have been sticking to my gluten free lifestyle and am happier and most definitely healthier. And it has turned out to be much easier than you would expect.


What can I eat?

Risotto will become your best friend, especially when you are on a college budget. Risotto is available at almost every restaurant that you go to and is considered a Primi Piatti. It will be a lot cheaper than the Secondi Piatti meat and vegetable options.

Corn Flakes are usually served at hostel breakfasts and you can grab them at the Italian markets. While not the most delicious thing in the world, they are better than nothing when the only other option is bread or croissants.

Thankfully Italians are starting to hop on the Cider train. It is not yet at the markets but can be found at the pubs around town. Cider is a good alternative to beer and is always my go to drink when I want something other than wine.

Of course you can always eat all your normal gluten free items such as meats, veggies, fruits, nuts, rice, potatoes, etc.


What should I avoid?

Gnocchi is made from potatoes and technically gluten free but but the way they make it is not. In order for the gnocchi to keep its shape, it is rolled in lots and lots of flour. Depending on your intolerance level, it could be an option but I know it makes me nauseous.

You also need to be careful of soups and sauces. Over the past four months, I have only had two run-ins with gluten and they were both caused by sauces on meat. Sauces and soup are sometimes thickened with flour. There is not a definitive answer on whether you can eat it or not because I’ve had some sauces/soups that are okay and some that definitely have flour in it. It will just have to be a judgement call!


Where can I find GF products?

When I first got to Italy in August, I spent hours at the market scanning ingredient lists and jumped for joy when I saw “Senza Glutine” marked on a package of crackers called Zero Graino. At the time, that was the only option. Over the past couple of months, the markets, Conad and Meta, have acquired whole GF sections where you can find bread, crackers, bars, cookies and more!  You can also find GF products at the pharmacies (Farmacia).


What restaurants can I go to that are GF?

This section is geared towards people in Florence because that’s where I live and have experience.

OK Bar (Via de Servi 97/r) is the only place that I’ve gone to in Florence with actual GF options other than risotto. They serve GF pasta and pizza. The pasta is delicious and I have yet to try the pizza but I’m sure it’s great too.

Ristorante Quinoa (Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore, 1) guarantees that all their dishes are GF. They have several different kinds of pasta, ravioli, bread, and as the name suggests, quinoa.

Just walking around Florence, I’ve seen several restaurants that have either “Gluten Free” or “Senza Glutine” clearly marked but just haven’t tried them yet.

Salumeria Verdi, better known as Pino’s (Via Giuseppe Verdi 36/r) is a panini place. They do not carry GF bread but Pino will make you a sandwich if you bring in your own.

Mesopotamia (Piazza Salvemini 14) is a kebab place that will become your drunk food spot. Kebabs are not GF because of the wrap but Mesopotamia offers Donner Boxes where you can get it all the goodness of a kebab minus the wrap. You can even add French Fries to it, which I always do.

Right outside of Florence is a little town called Fiesole. There is a restaurant there with the BEST gluten free pizza I have ever had in my entire life. The restaurant is called Le Lance and located at Via Giuseppe Mantellini 2. It still remains my favorite meal that I’ve had in Italy thus far.


Is there a website where I can learn more?

Of course! The Italian Celiac Association (AiC) website can give you more information about surviving GF in Italy as well as some restaurant recommendations. I even just found out that my favorite gelato flavor at Grom (Crema di Grom) was just made GF with the elimination of wheat flour. You go AiC!!!